About Daughter of Glass
Sasha Alexander has a powerful ability. Either that, or she’s dangerously mad.
Her father shrouds her in isolation, convinced he’s protecting her. But the seven guardians that only she can see insist she’s gifted. Her companions since her mother’s suicide, they protect her from hurt, pain and fear. They also keep her from feeling love. Sasha doesn’t know how to react when Noah explodes through her defenses. This strange young man with the scarred hands suddenly makes her feel again.
But unless she can learn to control her own emotions, the biggest danger to them all may be Sasha herself.
Fear wore a dull gray trench coat that looked like it was perpetually in need of a wash. Frayed in places, the coat hung off his cadaverously thin frame like a dusty sheet over a piece of forgotten furniture. Pale skin, tinged a sickly yellow, seemed to bleed through the thin clothes he wore underneath his coat. He didn’t touch me when he slid up beside me, but then, he didn’t have to. Fear was that rare guardian who seemed to carry his own weather with him wherever he went. Just by standing next to me, it felt as if the temperature had dropped several degrees, and in spite of myself, I shivered. I tried to smile at Noah as Fear stood next to me, and failed. He took out a dull silver coin and let it slide and flip across his knuckles; he wore a necklace of razor blades even duller than the coin. Sometimes they were speckled with what could be rust or blood against his sallow skin.
I had seen Fear slash his own fingertips with them, when we were in the grip of a particularly fierce bout of his signature emotion.
“I would say ‘I told you so,’ but I have a feeling you knew all along,” he grated in a voice that sounded like he’d swallowed sand. “You had to have known, from the very first day.” The coin flipped in the air, distracting me from my determination not to look at him. “You knew it from the very first touch. Go on, darling.” His necklace was tarnished with what I fervently hoped was rust. “Lie to me, and tell me you didn’t know this one was different, and not in a good way. I so love it when you lie. It makes your gut twist, and I find that… delectable.”
“I love it,” I insisted, which wasn’t the whole truth. Noah would think I meant the painting, but really I was talking to Fear, claiming the emotions I had only just discovered. Despite Noah’s steadying presence, I didn’t think I could take this new revelation about him and my most dangerous guardian’s appearance at the same time.
The painting was nothing if not damning, down to the way it revealed Fear’s own sickly, pale yellow light.
“It’s… lovely,” I forced myself to grind out through gritted teeth. “You say this is how you see me?” Noah slipped next to me, so that I found myself flanked by him on one side and Fear on the other. How did he know to avoid the spot where my guardian stood? Was it the same… ability… that allowed him to sense them enough to paint them as lights? I struggled to come up with another word, but ability seemed to fit as much as anything else. It was time to face facts.
Noah was different. His paintings proved that. And so did his hand, sliding in mine, absently stroking and calming. I felt it in a way I’d never experienced anything else in my life. Frissons of warmth and comfort radiated from him. Anytime we came in contact, I felt it. I wanted, in fact, to drown in it. I had spent so much of my life in an emotional vacuum, and for the first time, I could Feel.
“You can’t think we’ll allow this to pass,” Fear hissed, right in my ear so that his cool breath raised chill bumps on the back of my neck. “The others, the foolish ones, may think this is nothing more than an especially curious relationship, but some of us know differently,” he promised, his sandpaper voice flat and final. He stepped out of place beside me and stalked right up to the painting. “Mark my words: this will not stand. I don’t care if it causes a split among the guardians, we can’t let this pass. We’ve kept you safe this long because no one knows about us. But if it were to get out… Sasha, you wouldn’t be safe anymore.” He was growing more and more agitated, which meant I was, too. Out came his silver coin again, spinning in impossibly fast arcs across one set of knuckles and down another. He peered closely at the painting again, fingering his necklace absently. In the sunlight, it glowed dully, the color of old blood and winter sunsets.
Safe? I wouldn’t be safe? What about Noah, standing right beside me? I cleared my throat nervously, and reached again for my double conversational skills. “What exactly do you mean by that?” I asked, a twist to my voice that made him look at me curiously.
“Light,” Noah said promptly, spinning to face me. He took a strand of my hair in his scarred hand. “I see you with light around you- different kinds and different shades; sometimes you shimmer, sometimes you’re bathed in blue or red or amber; sometimes you seem shadowed. But that’s the first thing I noticed about you, back at that reception. It what any artist would notice first.”
“Not just any artist,” I said, casting a nervous glance sideways at the painting of me on the easel. “Only you.” How could I tell him that no one else could ever paint me this way?
“Don’t you like it?” he asked, and I turned away because I didn’t know how to answer. It was… complicated. To distract myself, I seized on the nearest painting at hand: the one of that night we went to the square together. Some of the figures were familiar to me. The woman with the long blond hair was there, with a kind of shimmer effect in the air surrounding her. There were normal people laughing and walking hand-in-hand, and there were not so normal people dotted throughout the crowd. I spotted some kind of animal overlaid on top of a perfectly normal looking business man; the teeth and claws were disconcerting, to say the least. Finally, in a corner off to the side, I recognized one of the figures with a shock. Noah had painted Lars, the night he came for me. But Lars didn’t look like his normal bodyguard self.
Overlaid across his familiar Icelandic good looks was a white wolf, teeth pulled back in a fierce snarl, claws bared. It seemed to weave through him, parts of it almost translucent where it disappeared into his body, while other parts, down to its snowy tail, looked as real as Lars himself. The other details of the square were present as well; I let my eyes scan the fountain, gloriously rendered in all its nighttime strangeness, its fairytale creatures cavorting in multi-colored lights. The shop fronts were all the same, many doing a brisk trade despite the late hour. I looked again at the annoying blond woman and the faint disturbance in the air around her. When I looked closely at her feet, vines snaked across them and trailed up her legs.
“I…. like it,” I hedged. “It’s just… so unusual. You say this is how you see people? The way you’ve painted them?”
He looked sheepish for a minute, and vaguely alarmed, like he was afraid I wouldn’t believe him. “Well, not exactly. I mean, I don’t see people walking around with vines on their feet, if that’s what you mean.” He indicated the small figure of Cassandra in the corner. “I just get these impressions of people. Images, sometimes, when I first meet them, is maybe the best way to describe it.” He shrugged, back to his good-natured self as he studied the painting with me. “I suppose I put more stock in first impressions than most people, and then I try to paint them that way. I mean, if I painted what everyone realistically looked like, that would be boring, right?” He smiled at me, huge and wholeheartedly. “Except for you. You really do shine, Sasha. Always.”
He settled his hands on my hips and pulled me to him. His kisses were at once more demanding and more familiar than before. It was as if he was asking some question of me, and demanding an answer. I waited for the frisson of warmth, of safety, that had always run through me whenever Noah touched me. His hands roamed my sides and pulled me even tighter until I was pressed up flat against him. But for the first time, I felt something wholly unfamiliar to my experiences with Noah: a cold slender knife of ice lodged itself in my stomach at his touch.
Behind me, Fear laughed softly.
I pulled back, confused. This couldn’t be right. Noah always made me feel warm and safe. I plunged myself into his embrace once more, desperate for the feeling of safety and the electric current that flowed between us.
Again, the cold feeling flooded me. Instead of electric warmth, what ran between us now was more of a numb shock.
“When will you accept the inevitable?” Fear grated. His trench coat billowed around him in the sunny room. He was such a bizarre counterpoint to the otherwise cheerful studio that he seemed like a carnival freak in a nineteenth century drawing room.
Except he wasn’t the carnival freak. I was.
I pulled away from Noah, confused. Fear was supposed to police these feelings. They weren’t supposed to get through, and yet they had. I didn’t like Fear getting through. I pulled away from Noah quickly. “What are you doing?” I asked, my words meant more for my guardian than for the boy I had come to care so much about.
Unfortunately, they could both hear me.
Fear laughed, an ugly sound laid bare in the sunlight like a scream in church. “I’m not doing a damned thing. That’s just it. I can’t protect you, not with him around. We’ve all been trying to tell you, in our various ways. He blocks us from keeping you protected. When you’re with him, you feel things, things we’ve always been able to guard you against, but for someone reason, this boy,” he sneered the word like it was some kind of curse, “won’t let us. Desire, Oblivion, Joy… all of them love to have this unfettered power in the environment around them. But I recognize it for what it is… dangerous. Because it also means emotions like mine can get through.”
“Sasha? What is it?” Noah asked, confused by my abrupt departure from his arms. “I just wanted… I mean, I thought, after…” He looked thoroughly confused, and I longed, for just a moment, to throw myself into his arms. But the stakes were too high. I didn’t know what the cost to him would be, but there would be consequences from this afternoon’s revelations. I wanted to protect him from the worst of them. “I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. I would never do that. Is this…” he took a deep breath. “Is this going too fast for you?”
I was grateful for the out he offered, even though it wasn’t true. “Yes, maybe a little,” I said, my gaze drawn once again to the figure of Lars entwined with a spectral wolf. For some reason, that image reminded me of my mother’s painting of wolves. “Just a very little,” I promised, watching as his face fell. “I love your paintings, and I’m so glad you decided to share this with me, but I just… Noah, it’s been so fast, and so… intense, these feelings between us.” I took a deep breath and asked the question I wasn’t sure I wanted the answer to. “Tell me you don’t think this is a little strange, what we have between us. It’s so sudden, and so powerful, at least… on my end,” I challenged, raising enough courage to touch his cheek. There it was again- the cold knife of fear. Damn.
Noah only nodded slowly. “Yes, I feel it too,” he acknowledged, and as Fear hissed sharply beside me, my heart soared even as it felt like it weighed a hundred pounds. It would be easiest to walk away from this now, before things got even more intense and strange between us, but I couldn’t do it. Not yet. Fear had brought up my mother’s abilities, and their failure to keep her safe. Was I headed down that road? Or could Noah be the one who would finally allow me to break free of the constant supervision of my guardians?
Is that what they were afraid of?
I couldn’t let him go until I found out. I wasn’t sure I could let him go at any cost. Not forever.
“I have to leave,” I said softly, my mind whirling. There was so much to digest, so much to decide, that I almost missed Noah speaking.
“…At least buy you lunch,” he was saying, a desperate note in his voice. “It’s the least I can do, after practically kidnapping you. There’s this wonderful place off the square with an indoor fountain and plants everywhere… I think you’d like it.” His expression was so hopeful, I found myself tempted to try to explain why I couldn’t spend another second in his presence. I was afraid I was too dangerous. To the both of us.
Or maybe I had it backwards. Maybe it was Noah who was dangerous to me.
“I can’t,” I heard myself say, even though what I wanted to say was the very opposite. “I have to get home.”
“Well, come on then,” he said, obviously disappointed. “I’ll drive you.”
“No!” I practically shouted. That was the last thing I wanted. “I’d actually like to walk for a while. See the square, and then catch a ride home. I can call for one.” I offered him a lukewarm liar’s smile. I did not relish a long walk with Fear as my only companion, but if that’s what it took, then that’s what I would do. I paused with my hand on the door to his studio and almost, almost, changed my mind.
Then Fear’s dull chill enveloped me, and I ran without looking back.